Next, let's explore some inclusive language examples in-practice. 1. Avoid complicated acronyms. Acronyms have become part of nearly everyones vocabulary but they can be alienating for people who don't know wha they mean! I remember how frustrated I was when I kept seeing 'TLDR' all over the internet. I finally Googled the acronym which means 'Too Long, Didn't Read' by the way! But the acronym made me feel separated because I didn't know what it was & then kept forgetting what it meant. Just avoid! 2. Use plain copy in your writing rather than jargon. Many of us write out expressions or idiolects every day. For instance, I quite often say, "it's lush" or "In a fortnights time" without pausing to consider whether my audience knows or has heard the terms before. I have quite a few American clients who have never heard of the term 'Fortnight' (meaning 2 weeks or fourteen nights), is this just a British thing, or even worse, a North Eastern British thing?! Lush = lovely.
It's also good to avoid using metaphors that are specific to just one culture. So, for example, we avoid using phrases like 'argy-bargy' or 'cuppa’, even though these phrases are pretty common in the UK, as they’re just not going to resonate with anyone else. Not because people will be offended by a reference to an argument or a hot beverage, but because they won’t be as familiar, so the meaning of your copy won’t be as clear. 3. Refer to a theoretical person as "they" instead of "he" or "she." Being in the marketing industry, we have to be great storytellers. Sometimes, however, you might get caught up in using pronouns that unintentionally support stereotypes.
For example, let's say you're giving a marketing pitch & say, "We've found through your analytics that readers are typically in a CEO position which is why we should be using a LinkedIn strategy. He might turn to our Website ahead of time, but more likely, he'll turn to LinkedIn before that."
The imagined CEO-level reader doesn't need to be gendered, call them "they”. You can still make your point & you won't alienate people who feel hurt that you've assumed that leaders are more likely to be male. 4. Ensure your company's designs or images reflect a diverse group of people. When potential clients look at your website, you want them to see people that look like them, it brings a feeling of familiarity. Otherwise, you're likely missing out on potential customers. It's important to ensure that the people we represent in illustrations are diverse in appearance & that these people are represented doing a variety of different things. You want to ensure your marketing materials reflect as many groups of people as possible. Otherwise, you're unintentionally sending messages to people who don't see themselves in your content that your brand "isn't for them."
5. Be careful with terms related to race, ethnicity, nationality & culture. A lot of terms used daily have roots in racism & discrimination, so using them can make people feel unsafe, whether in your marketing materials or day-to-day correspondence with clients. For example, 'pow wow' is often used informally to describe a meeting or get-together. Using it in such a way disregards 'pow wows' as indigenous cultures’ sacred rituals & social gatherings & ceremonial events that may have nothing to do with the copy you're writing. A simple alternative is saying meeting or hang-out. 6. Be mindful of medical conditions & ablest terms. Common phrases like “turning a blind eye” are ableist & insensitive to people whose lives are impacted by medical conditions. This can be used innocently, but it's best to avoid it at all costs in any of your marketing materials unless they’re relevant to your topic of conversation.
Now it's your turn... It's important to remember none of us will get inclusive terms "perfect" 100% of the time but admitting when you've made a mistake & trying to communicate more inclusively are 2 of the major steps needed towards creating a more friendly online space & creating deeper connections with your potential customers.
Inclusive language is about widening your message & allowing it to resonate with as many people as possible, so it's crucial for your business that you do everything you can to communicate more inclusively, just a little bit more every day.